The truth about ‘El fin del mondo’ (The end of the world)

Our ferry was supposed to get to Puerto Williams on Friday morning. At some point on Thursday the captain came and told us of a trip he was making on Saturday to Puerto Toro, to what he said was the Southernmost populated spot on Planet Earth. ‘El fin del Mondo’ he said. The end of the world. I was shocked at that as I had always believed Ushuaia was supposed to be the ‘end of the world’, or at least that’s what everyone said. I told him that and he replied shrugging his shoulders ‘Yes, they do say that. They can say anything, but that doesn’t mean it’s also true’. We looked at the map and realised that indeed both Puerto Williams and Puerto Toro were South of Ushuaia.

‘Would you like to come?’ he asked us. We didn’t know whether he was joking or not, but in the end we realised he was actually inviting us to go, at no charge at all. ‘You know’ he told me, ‘I’ll tell you something. You are very happy, very bubbly. Some other European people I’ve met, they’re not like that. They’re more cold, and serious… but you are different. We had some good laughs together yesterday, didn’t we?’. He ended with ‘Be at the ferry at 8am on Saturday. We will go to the end of the world!’. And of course, in the latin tradition, he gave us each a kiss on the cheek :).

The 5 of us were supposed to go but in the morning Daniella and Selis decided they needed a bit more rest so they would stay in for the day. We got to the boat and the captain greeted us with the big smile we had gotten used to. There were other passengers there as apparently you could go on this trip if you bought a ticket from an agency. It happened only on the last Saturday of the month, every month of the year.

The trip was to take 3 hours and after about 1 hour the captain came to the common room and asked the 3 of us to join him for tea. We had another round of laughs and he told us a few more stories and interesting facts about the region. It seems Puerto Toro is the Southernmost populated spot on the planet, but it’s not exactly a city, it’s more like a village of about 40 people. The ferry was going there that day to bring them food, fuel and other necessary things that the Government provides the inhabitants with every month. They are completely dependant on the government on their livelihood as they don’t have any other source of income. ‘But why do they live here then?’ I asked. ‘Why don’t they move to Puerto Williams or somewhere more populated where they could make a living for themselves?’. ‘Well, because this is where they have lived all their lives. And plus I guess it’s a way to maintain souveragnity’.

The captain offered to show us around Puerto Toro during the 3 hours it would take to unload the ferry. He took us to the church, the gymnasiumn (where we also played some ball and threw a few hoops with the cap), around the few houses, introduced us to the police and few other people of the village, showed us the house he lived in for a while about 30 years before, then took us for a long walk around the forests and hills around. On the way back he called us up to his cabin and he and his Second showed us maps, told us a few things about sailing, played some Chilean music for us and further entertained us with their jokes. Silviu ended up giving them each a short massage and they were delighted about that as well! We told him we had not seen pinguins yet so he made sure he passed by this little island where he said he’d often see them. When we approached the place we saw lots of white and black creatures, but as it turned out they were cormorons, the same birds we had seen in Punta Arenas. Again, we enjoyed seeing them very much and were so grateful to the captain for his extra kind gesture.

When we got back to Puerto Williams the members of the crew said good bye to us as if we were family, hugging us and wishing us all the best in our travels, asking if we’d travel back with them and making us feel really special. We were so grateful to these people for giving us such a unique experience! 🙂

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